• Defense & Security

Japan’s Defense Ministry Punishes 245 SDF Members for Power Abuse, Sexual Harassment; GSDF General Receives Two-Rank Demotion

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Defense Ministry

The Defense Ministry announced Friday that 245 Self-Defense Forces members have been punished for sexual harassment and other forms of power abuse following a special inspection into the SDF.

The special inspection covered all SDF members, totaling more than 200,000. The probe was conducted by the Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance between September and November last year. The inspection was a response to cases including that of Rina Gonoi, the 24-year-old former Ground Self-Defense Force member who came forward under her real name to accuse some of her senior officers of sexual harassment.

Out of 1,325 allegations made during the inspection, the ministry completed its fact-checking in 1,273 cases, and 245 SDF members involved in 207 cases were subject to punishment.

Two members were discharged from the SDF, while a major general of the GSDF was demoted two ranks, the first time for a GSDF member to receive such a punishment for harassment. In addition, three members received demotions, 67 were suspended, 34 given pay cuts and 22 were reprimanded.

There are 115 SDF members found to have committed power abuse and 30 found to have committed sexual harassment. Six members were found to have committed both forms of harassment. In addition, 92 members were punished for discipline violations, such as failing to respond appropriately to acts of harassment by subordinates despite being aware of them.

The ministry concluded that there was insufficient evidence in 1,066 cases because it was unable to confirm facts, or because victims did not request further investigation. The remaining 52 cases are still being examined.

Among the Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense forces, the GSDF, which has the highest number of members, has seen the most members subject to punishment, at 166.

“It is extremely regrettable that a senior officer, who is supposed to serve as a role model for his subordinates, committed such an act,” GSDF Chief of Staff Yasunori Morishita said Friday, referring to the officer in his 50s who was demoted two ranks. “We will thoroughly and carefully continue to implement every initiative to encourage an organizational culture that does not tolerate any harassment.”

In the MSDF, a male rear admiral in his 50s who was found to have abused his power had his wages cut by one-sixth for two months as a disciplinary measure.

Gonoi: Inspection ‘significant’

“It was significant that the inspection was conducted to attend to those who had not been able to make their voice heard,” said Gonoi.

She added, “I believe there are many people who are yet to be dealt with and saved … How much the SDF can change depends on their future efforts, and I want them to clearly show that they are committed to changing attitudes.”